Cheney in the Limelight: Is Former VP Breaking Tradition?

Cheney is not the first former VP to denounce a new administration's policies.

ByABC News
May 12, 2009, 7:25 AM

May 12, 2009— -- The vice president who seemed to spend most of his eight years in office in an undisclosed location, now seems to be everywhere, giving interview after interview criticizing the Obama administration's counterterrorism policies and defending the Bush administration's record.

The media blitz has much of Washington lamenting that Dick Cheney has broken a long tradition of vice presidents who quietly walk off to obscurity after leaving office. As one cable news commentator put it, "Not in modern times have we ever seen anything like this."

Nonsense. The big contrast is not between Cheney and his predecessors but between Cheney and former top Bush administration officials who have quietly watched the Obama administration dismantle many of their policies. The silence of other former Bush administration officials, including Bush himself, goes a long way to explaining why the once camera-shy vice president has become such a visible former vice president.

Long-time Cheney friend and former Sen. Alan Simpson said one factor behind Cheney's new outspokenness is that he is no longer constrained by the White House press office. "As vice president," Simpson said, "you can't speak without clearing everything. You are muzzled."

But is Cheney breaking a long tradition of former vice president's who fade away into self-imposed silence? Consider his immediate predecessor, Al Gore. After losing the recount in the 2000 presidential election, Gore famously grew a beard, added a few pounds and stayed out of the limelight for a while. But his low profile didn't last long.

During President Bush's second year in office, Gore emerged as the most forceful Democratic critic of the buildup to war in Iraq. In September 2002, a month before Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama spoke out against the war, Gore delivered a blistering speech against the resolution that authorized the war against Iraq.

Gore's criticism of Bush came a little later than Cheney's criticism of Obama, but it was no less severe.

Gore's September 2002 speech accused Bush of playing politics with national security and declared that Bush had "squandered" the goodwill the rest of the world felt toward the United States just as he had squandered the budget surpluses left by the Clinton administration.

And Gore wasn't unusual either. No recent vice presidents have been shy about criticizing presidents of the opposing party.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle did it in a book shortly after leaving office. And former Vice President Walter Mondale toured the country in the 1980s denouncing Reaganomics as "radical" and "wrong." Mondale not only criticized Reagan, he tried to defeat him, running for president in 1984.